AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 15, Number 3a

January 19, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: The Men Behind the Miracle back to top 
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Hudson "Hero" To Inauguration

The first public appearance by the "hero of the Hudson" could be at the most publicized event of the year. President-elect Barack Obama has invited Flight 1549 Capt. Chesley Sullenberger to his inauguration on Tuesday. Sullenberger has been kept under wraps by authorities investigating the dramatic ditching of the US Airways A320 in the Hudson River last Thursday and has not spoken to anyone but them, his family, Obama and other politicians since. His wife Lorrie told reporters in their home of Danville, Calif., about the invitation to the inauguration and says she and her teenage daughters are excited. Meanwhile, NBC's Today Show says Sullenberger will appear in his first media interview this morning on their program.

The Contra Costa Times reported Saturday that Sullenberger's family was scheduled to fly to New York for a reunion on Sunday. It also said that the Air Line Pilots Association has asked Sullenberger to refrain from public comment until after investigators are finished interviewing him.

1549 FO "A Modest Man"

Jeffrey Skiles is the kind of guy who'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. And that, says his mother Deloris, explains why one of the passengers interviewed after being rescued from Flight 1549 was wearing the tunic with the three stripes that clearly identified it as coming from Skiles, who was first officer on the flight. Skiles, 49, of Oregon, Wisc., was the flying pilot when the aircraft took off from LaGuardia Airport on Thursday but handed the aircraft over to Capt. Chesley Sullenberger after both engines quit. Although the precise tasks he performed in the ditching haven't been detailed, he was undoubtedly busy, but his mother told The Associated Press he won't be bragging about it. "I know he did everything he could," his mother said. "He's a modest fellow and a very modest man."

Skiles' wife Barbara said her husband needed clean clothes but was otherwise unruffled by the mishap. "Someone was kind enough to give him clean underwear," she said. Skiles grew up in a flying family. Both his parents had pilot certificates and he and his brothers frequently flew with them. But his mother said his siblings didn't catch the bug. "They didn't take to flying," Deloris Skiles said, "but Jeff did."

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More Details Surface on Hudson Ditching back to top 
Sponsor Announcement

"We're Gonna Be in the Hudson"

A first look at ATC tapes and crew interviews revealed Sunday that US Airways Flight 1549 suffered a dual engine loss a mere 90 seconds after takeoff. Quoting from the ATC transcript, the NTSB's Kitty Higgins said at 3:27:32, the flight was instructed to turn left to 270 degrees. The crew responded: "Ah, Cactus 1549 … hit birds, we lost thrust in both engines. We're turning back toward LaGuardia." At 3:28:05, 33 seconds later, ATC asked if the crew wanted to return to LaGuardia. "We're unable. We may end up in the Hudson," came the reply, according to Higgins' reading of the transcript.

"There was some discussion whether the airplane could land at Teterboro, off the airplane's right, about six miles. And the pilot responded, "We can't do it … we're gonna be in the Hudson.'" That was the last communication from the aircraft.

Although it had previously been reported that the A320's ditching switch had been activated, The Associated Press said Saturday that it appears it had not been. The ditching switch automatically closes the cabin outflow valve, avionics vents and other through-hull openings to make the cabin more watertight. The AP also reported that once the aircraft was in the water, a quick-thinking flight attendant stopped a passenger from opening one of the rear doors, which was by then below the waterline. This may have reduced flooding and given the passengers precious seconds to exit the cabin.

Flight 1549 Crew: Birds Filled Windshield

Click for larger size

The NTSB said over the weekend that the first officer of US Airways Flight 1549 clearly saw the formation of birds seconds before they were ingested in the Airbus A320's engines, causing immediate loss of thrust and an eventual ditching in the Hudson River. The NTSB said Saturday that interviews with Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles revealed that Skiles had seen the birds approaching in perfect formation and made note it. An instant later, Sullenberger said the windshield was filled with big, dark-brown birds. "His instinct was to duck," the NTSB's Kitty Higgins told The Associated Press, in summarizing the crew interview. Skiles was flying the leg from LaGuardia to Charlotte on Thursday afternoon, but immediately after the bird strike, Sullenberger assumed control and began the sequence of events that ultimately resulted in a successful ditching in the Hudson with all occupants surviving. As the engines spooled back, the smell of burning birds and fuel filled the cabin air system.

In frigid temperatures on Saturday, a heavy-lift crane removed the A320 from the Hudson and placed it on a barge. "The plane is full of water, as you would expect. It has the approximate weight of an A380, so in its current condition, it's about a million pounds," she said in a press conference Saturday. The airplane's right wing was wedged under a seawall where the airplane had been secured on Thursday evening. The aircraft was lifted a foot at time to allow water to drain, reducing its weight. The lift revealed that the right engine was still attached to the wing and that wing and engine panels were damaged or missing. The safety agency is still searching for the left engine, which was sheared off during the ditching sequence. The NTSB also said that Flight 1549's flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been recovered and sent to Washington for analysis.

Airliner Ditchings: Not Great Odds

U.S. Airways Flight 1549's ditching into the Hudson is all the more remarkable given the relatively poor odds of all occupants surviving such an accident. But it has happened at least once before. In 1963, an Aeroflot twin-engine Tu124 enroute to Moscow ran out of fuel after trying to sort out a landing gear problem. The crew ditched on the Neva River, the aircraft remained afloat and was towed to shore. All 52 occupants survived.

In May 1970, a DC-9 enroute to St. Maarten from New York ran out of fuel after three missed approaches at St. Croix. After a ditching in poor weather, 22 of the 57 passengers died, along with one crew member.

One of the most spectacular ditchings occurred in 1996 and was caught on video by a tourist. An Ethiopian Airlines 767 had been hijacked and forced to re-route to Australia. It ran out of fuel and ditched off the Comoro Islands, midway between Madagascar and the African coast. Ten of the 12 crew members and 117 of the 160 passengers were killed, despite almost immediate rescue efforts from people nearby on the beach. Later analysis of the video showed that the aircraft dragged its left wing, initiating a turning moment and break-up sequence.

By comparison, historical ditching survival rates for light aircraft are quite good. An Aviation Safety magazine study of light aircraft ditchings found than nearly 90 percent of the occupants egress and survive light aircraft ditching events.

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News Briefs back to top 

Eclipse Sale Hearing Continues Tuesday

While much of the country will be absorbed by the events in Washington, Tuesday, a bankruptcy court in Delaware will be hearing arguments for and against the purchase of Eclipse Aviation by a company owned by its current chairman. The hearing into the proposed sale of the company to a Luxembourg-based subsidiary of ETIRC Aviation, owned by Roel Pieper, was scheduled to wrap up on Friday but not all the testimony (much of it in opposition to the sale) could be heard. Since Monday is a holiday, the proceedings were set for Tuesday. According to KRQE the disposition of 30 aircraft already in production is one of the stumbling blocks.

The judge is being asked to decide if the partly-built aircraft are part of the deal or whether the eventual owners, who have paid deposits on them, will get them when they're finished. Meanwhile, local and state politicians and business leaders are fretting over whether the millions of dollars in incentives and infrastructure improvements they've provided will be lost, should the reorganized company decide to move from Albuquerque. "We all felt it was going to be a great success story," City Councillor Ken Sanchez told reporters." Those are some of the risks we take as policy makers; unfortunately in this particular case, it didn't work to our favor."

Northrop Grumman Sued Over Mallard Crash

It's not often that a manufacturer is sued for allegedly defective products it hasn't built in almost 60 years but that's where Northrop Grumman finds itself. Chalk's Ocean Airways and its insurer AIG is suing the company over the crash of one of Chalk's Grumman Mallards in December of 2005, claiming the 58-year-old aircraft wasn't properly made. "There was a manufacturing problem with the rivets," Chalk's attorney John Eversole told the Miami Herald. "Our allegations are that there was a weak area where the wings are attached to the fuselage, an area that could lead to weakness if under stress. This area is enclosed and cannot be inspected. The metal is built around the area where this wing sheared off..." The right wing on Chalk's Mallard came off in flight and the resulting crash killed all 20 aboard. The Herald said Northrop Grumman declined comment on the suit.

Chalk's never recovered from the accident and its operating certificate was pulled in November of 2007. AIG paid out $50 million in claims. The NTSB blamed faulty maintenance and Chalk's failure to spot the fatigue cracks that caused the accident but Eversole said there was nothing anyone could have done to spot the problem. "We think the NTSB was way too quick to blame Chalk's for maintenance when there is no maintenance that can be done with this area," he said. "You can't inspect it, you can't perform maintenance on it. There is nothing you can do short of rebuilding the airplane."

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News Briefs back to top 

Cessna's Corvalis And Cirrus' TURBO

Cessna and Cirrus have both repackaged their products -- Cessna has renamed its low-wing piston singles (under previous ownership, the Columbia 350 and 400) as the Cessna 350 Corvalis and 400 Corvalis TT, while Cirrus has announced new options for its product line. Cirrus announced integrated TKS weeping wing technology, automotive style windshield de-ice fluid distribution and other advances that should allow the company to offer flight into known icing certification by Q2 2009. Other Cirrus upgrades bring new "X-Edition" option packages via an "S" designation on model types that can bring 12-inch screens and S-TEC 55X autopilot units to Cirrus cockpits, along with new paint schemes to the outside. Aside from the "S" option package designation, the top-end Cirrus product will henceforth be known simply as the TURBO. Cessna's 190- and 235-knot Corvalis models have taken their new name in tribute to an Oregon town not far from the company's Bend, Ore., manufacturing facility.

Both Cirrus and Cessna have made cutbacks in their workforces to adjust to slowdowns in demand. Cirrus' Vice President of Marketing Todd Simmons framed the company's latest product announcement by saying that, "in contrast to many others that are actually removing features and value in response to economic and other external pressures, our approach is just the opposite." Cessna's latest change applies "a graceful word befitting the flowing lines of the aircraft and its unique Northwest heritage," according to Cessna vice president of marketing Tom Aniello.

FAA Proposes Changes To Pro Pilot Training

The FAA has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would "enhance tradition training programs" for Part 121 crew and pilots by requiring simulator training and additional requirements "in areas that are critical to safety." The proposed rules would provide more frequent recurrent training to co-pilots than captains, as the FAA aims to prepare a workforce that, it is expected, may be less experienced on average due to demand in the coming years. Toward that end, recurrent training for co-pilots would take place every nine months, instead of the annual intervals set by the current timetable. Other major changes would cause training and evaluation of flight crew members to take place in a full crew environment, require special hazards training, recurrent Line Oriented Flight Training (LOFT), and "reduce the frequency of performance drills using emergency equipment and procedures." The proposals are aimed at "raising the bar to a higher standard" and providing skill sets that allow crews to "respond better if a mistake is made," an FAA spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.

The proposed rules include flight attendants and flight dispatchers and are based on analysis of 160 accidents over about two decades that the agency believes were caused by inadequate training and that resulted in roughly 1,000 fatalities. Read the full proposal, here.

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News Briefs back to top 

Military Controller's Trial A Lesson In Tea Totaling

Two days after the July 4 weekend, an air traffic controller at Mayport Naval Station, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Lee, was given a drug test that he failed, but his character and explanation saved his career. During the trial, Lee said that he was incredulous upon hearing the news that he'd failed the test. "That's not possible," he said, "that's impossible." Lee said during trial that he was a big tea drinker and had been contacted just days before hearing about his failed drug test by fellow petty officer second class Javier Trevino who'd already learned that he'd failed his own. The key connection between the two men was the tea they'd enjoyed tea together, supplied by Trevino, prior to the drug test. The tea is known as mate de coca and is made with the leaves of the coca plant ... the one from which cocaine is made. It can be bought in a "decocainized" U.S. legal form (though it does not appear that was the version the men drank) but even that product contains a minute quantity of the drug. Prosecutors argued that Lee should have known what he was drinking, but when asked at trial by his own attorney if he knew the ingredients of the green tea he usually drank, Lee reportedly responded, "uh ... tea?" Lee was acquitted, Tuesday.

Lee's proclaimed ignorance of the tea's ingredients was not his only defense. Lee's pregnant wife had also tried some of the tea and that fact, combined with positive testimony in which superior officers described Lee as the best petty officer second class in his unit and possible officer material appears to have been enough to sway the trial's outcome. Lee said he had been considering leaving the military, but said the court experience renewed his faith in the system and the Navy and he may now consider his chances of becoming an officer.

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

AVmail: January 19, 2009

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Flight 1549 — How Many Rafts?

[All the major news outlets] missed the big story that there were not enough rafts. Remember the Titanic. Had this not been in the river, 80% of passengers would have died in the cold water.

How many rafts? Enough for all the passengers? There were a few on a raft and the rest on the wing.

Dick Rutan

Nationality in Dispute

In your AVwebAlert of January 15, 2009, I thought that it was a bit inappropriate of your editors to speculate as to the national origin of the Canada geese which are reported to have contributed to the demise of the airliner. In all fairness, these geese could have been summer inhabitants of Canada, given that they were encountered in the Eastern Flyway. But this late in the season, they could have just as easily been northbound to summer homes in Alaska or Siberia. Or, for that matter, they may have been perennial residents of New York.

If any survived, their passports should be checked ... .

Dale McKee

AVweb Replies:

We received more e-mails on our incorrect use of the term Canadian geese in our hurried attempts to get our alert out than on anything else regarding Flight 1549. For the record, the ornithologically correct name is Canada geese, but Canadian geese is also used, even if incorrectly.

Russ Niles

Passing of an Icon

You should note the passing of Australia's Nancy Bird-Walton, one of our pioneer and premier aviators who, incidentally, happened to be a woman. This made her achievements even more notable.

Duncan Watts

Zero for 24

Anyone notice how the producers of the TV series 24 pretty much got everything wrong about aviation (which played a starring role) during the recent premiere?

For example: Upon receiving descent clearance, the Captain pushed the nose over and powered up. During a go-around, he pulled the nose up and throttled back. ATC was referred to as air traffic control, as opposed to "center" or "approach." Turbulence was reported as minor vs. light. Our fearless captain was cleared to "one five hundred." Perhaps we, as pilots, are the only ones in the world who care or are bothered by the fact that they got almost nothing right at all. Perhaps AVweb should offer their considerable expertise as consultants to these terribly misinformed producers.

Makes you wonder if anything about the show is at all close to reality.

Mark Hangen

AVweb Replies:

We'd be happy to help! (With the aviation parts, not the reality.)

Russ Niles

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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New on AVweb back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Flight 1549 — Airmanship to Live For

US Airways Flight 1549 was a textbook ditching with the best outcome imaginable. AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli thinks there's plenty to be learned from the crew, the circumstances, and the flight path.

Read more on the AVweb Insider blog.

Business Executives! Mark Your Calendars for February 3 & 4, 2009 in London, England
Active Communications' Efficiency in Aviation forum will provide a unique platform for senior aviation executives to discover, consider and discuss innovative management, operational and technical strategies to achieve greater cost and fuel efficiency. AVweb is a media partner for this forum. Call Melanie Mulazzi at +44 (20) 7981-2504, or click here to contact her via e-mail.

Details online.
AVweb Audio — Are You Listening? back to top 

Sport Expo: Despite the Economy, Open for Business

File Size 5.5 MB / Running Time 6:03

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Earl Lawrence, a board member of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA), tells AVweb that the LSA industry continues to hang tough in difficult economic conditions. To prove it, the fifth annual Sport Aircraft Expo opens this week in Sebring, Florida. Our coverage begins with this podcast.

Click here to listen. (5.5 MB, 6:03)

Hill Aircraft Parts Department Announces January as Customer Appreciation Month
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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: US Airways Flight 1549's Incredible Landing — First Impact Footage

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

AVweb video editor Glenn Pew has compiled footage and information on the January 15 crash of US Airways Flight 1549 that successfully ditched in the Hudson River minutes after departure from LaGuardia airport. Piloted by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles, the aircraft landed safely in the water, where NY Waterways ferries and emergency personnel then rescued all 155 aboard.

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Video of the Week: Learning to Fly, 1953

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

There's a touch of annoying feedback in our latest "Video of the Week," but it's worth adapting your ears to. Even if you turn the sound down a few minutes into the video, you'll still enjoy promotional "Learn to Fly" video from 1953. Break out the reel-to-reel, and help us with this screen, willya?

Kudos to AVweb reader Jim Dixon for uncovering this gem on YouTube!

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Stars and Stripes Air Services (Boulder City, NV)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Stars and Stripes Air Services at 61B in Boulder City, Nevada.

AVweb reader Richard Woodsum recommended the FBO:

Due to IFR weather along my route from SAC to ABQ, I spent an extra two days at Boulder City, Nevada. The FBO, Star and Stripes Air Services, not only delivered me to and from the motel, but [they] made sure I joined them for a very nice Thanksgiving dinner at the FBO office. Sandi, Debra, and Toni all were great and made my unexpected stay a very memorable one!

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Related many years ago by Diane Ritt, Assistant Airport Manager at Antrim County Airport:

"Charlevoix Unicom, Charlevoix Unicom, this is Cherokee [Something] Xray. What are your winds and active?"

"Cherokee [Something] Xray, the winds are out of the east at five, active runway is zero nine."

"Charlevoix, I'm out here by the cement plant, and it looks like the winds are out of the northwest."

"Cherokee [Something] Xray, are you landing at Charlevoix or landing at the cement plant?"

John L. Wagner
via e-mail

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Scott Simmons

Jeff van West

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

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If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

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